Aug
27
2007

The beach of the future is sparkly, and maybe sharp.

Welcome to the beach, kids: Don't forget your shoes.  (photo by Luiza on Flickr.com)
Welcome to the beach, kids: Don't forget your shoes. (photo by Luiza on Flickr.com)
Officials in Broward County, Florida, are considering using crushed glass to rebuild their eroded beaches. The plan, unfortunately, is not to cover the beaches with broken bottles, but to use well-pulverized glass, essentially recreating the sand that was used to make the glass in the first place. So a walk on the beach wouldn’t be, you know, torture. It would be a lot like walking on a normal beach, just shinier. I approve of this; everything in the future should be a little shinier.

It’s bad for business when beaches erode in Florida, and Broward has always resorted to dredging up sand from the ocean floor and pumping it back on to the beach. This isn’t cheap, and it won’t be getting any cheaper, hence the county’s interest in possible alternatives.

So far, studies have shown that the organisms and wildlife of the beaches should be able to thrive in the glass sand just the same as normal sand, although some have pointed out that it is impossible to predict all of the environmental consequences of a project like this. In the 1970s, for instance, Broward County attempted to attach 700,000 old tires to the ocean floor to create an artificial reef. When the tires came loose (and who could have predicted that?), though, they began “scouring the ocean floor,” and wedging against natural reefs, killing the coral. I have to admire the spirit there, at least – in addition to the glass beach initiative, Broward understands that, in the future, cars obviously won’t have tires, and we’ll need to think of something to do with all of the old ones. If only there was some way to make them shiny.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The bigger questions to consider here are why are beaches loosing their sand and why replace it?

Ocean beach erosion happens for a number of reasons. Hurricanes are getting more intense and sea levels are rising both perhaps due to global warming. And the pounding waves of hurricanes can scour huge quantities of sand in a short time. In addition, beaches can’t recover on their own because of the jetty structures coastal engineers have constructed along their shores; these prevent the natural migration of sand up and down the coast. Also in building structures along the coastline, developers have removed the natural vegetation that acts as a natural cushion to the pounding surf.

Why replace the sand? A sandy beach can by absorbing the energy of crashing waves and protect nearby structures. And with rising sea levels of about an inch a decade, engineers feel it’s important to replenish the beaches to prevent loss of oceanfront condos. Plus – what would Florida be without its beaches?

posted on Wed, 08/29/2007 - 2:47pm

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